It’s Here! Budget Simulator v2.0 made its debut this month having been adopted by Liverpool City Council. The Liverpool team have been an absolute pleasure to work with (like all of our customers!) In particular it’s been a joy to have Mayor Joe Anderson personally champion the project from the very start; in fact it was his idea to run a mobile budget consultation…
Mayor Joe at the Heart of Participation
All over the UK , councils are facing financial cuts from the Government, some more than others. Liverpool City Council has been particularly hit hard, having the difficult task of finding £156 million of savings of over the next 3 years with £45 million of this in 2014/15.
Amongst other appearances, Mayor Joe has been seen on BBC North West news and the BBC Daily Politics Show speaking out on the importance of this consultation;
‘This budget tool simulates the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make…/…There is no option other than to deal with the situation head on and make the decisions in the fairest way possible…/…their (residents’) comments give us valuable feedback on what people see as the priorities for spending over the next year.’
v2.0 Optimised for Mobile
According to a recent summary from the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet from mobile phones has more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, rising from 24% to 53%, so the importance of enabling participation through these platforms is more prevalent than ever before.
With this in mind, Mayor Joe specifically wanted to run a mobile budget consultation to ensure engagement with as many of Liverpool’s 470,000 residents as possible. Budget Simulator has recently been rebuilt from the ground up to work on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, so was the perfect solution.
We are approaching the fourth week since the Liverpool Simulator went live and it has received over 4000 visits, of which 28% have been from a mobile phone or tablet and 72% from a desktop. 920 of these participants have submitted responses; a real win on the side of engagement.
Understand Through Engagement
The Liverpool team had a second key goal for this consultation: to inspire an understanding from residents of the challenges they were collectively facing as a community. Budget Simulator uses consequences and service descriptions to do just that. By presenting background information, the tool enables participants to make informed spending allocations while gaining a real insight into the reality of the task.
The understanding gained through this project is a two way street of course; the meaningful, insightful responses collected from Budget Simulator ensure decisions can be made to better reflect the priorities of those they affect.
Embracing the Principles of Consultation
The simulator sits within a wider scheme of events and promotion, all geared towards understanding what really matters to the people of Liverpool. The campaign is transparent and accessible, for example the Mayor’s Budget page is a simple and clear port of call for all important dates, how to take part in the consultation and easy access to supporting information and reports.
This is such an important facet to Liverpool’s approach; making it easy for people to participate and clear how their input will make a difference. The concept of government consultation sometimes comes under scrutiny where the public feel their contribution makes no difference to the outcome. The government consultation principles document highlights the importance of reforming this perception;
‘It [the consultation guidelines document] is not a ‘how to’ guide but aims to help policy makers make the right judgments about when, with whom and how to consult. The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than merely following bureaucratic process. ‘
Mayor Joe represents an increasing number of visionary leaders making steps towards consultation practices which connect them to citizens in meaningful ways. Delib’s online tools facilitate these connections by enabling policy-makers to:
1) Engage with residents directly in an open and transparent manner.
2) Provide a forum for residents to interact with each other and have meaningful dialogue.
3) Engage with residents anywhere – Budget Simulator can be used on mobile devices and is responsive, opening up a wider market for engagement.
4) Create lasting policy partnerships between residents and decision-makers.
Liverpool Showing Us How It’s Done
There are many reasons why Liverpool’s Budget Simulator has been such a successful project so far. The tool’s ability to work on mobile devices, Liverpool’s fantastic approach to promotion and transparency, along with their clear commitment to ensure insight gained from responses will inform the outcome.
It’s likely to be a combination of all these factors, but one thing is for sure, the Liverpool team have set the bar high for engagement and best practice, and we couldn’t be more proud of how they have showcased the capabilities of shiny new Budget Simulator.